From Full-Time to Part-Time
Job Title: Senior Assistant Dean of Admissions
Industry: College Admissions
Length of Maternity Leave: 16-weeks
Temporary or permanent part-time situation: My part time situation will be re-evaluated on a yearly basis with the renewal of my contract but we have discussed it lasting at least until my daughter goes to school.
Child's name: Clara
"After my husband and I decided that me working part-time would work for our family, I used my performance evaluation as an opportunity to start the conversation about changing my schedule. I knew my supervisor would be supportive, but I was pleasantly surprised when she brought it ‘up the chain’ there wasn’t a hard and fast “no.” It took several months to work out, but in the end I was offered the chance to work Monday through Wednesday and to be at home with my daughter Thursday and Friday."
Tell us about your experience returning to work from maternity leave
Returning to work was challenging. My daughter was born 5-weeks early which meant I went back to work 5-weeks before I had originally planned, putting me right at the beginning of my profession’s travel season. I spent the first six weeks back traveling at least three days each week with my daughter and my mom. Breastfeeding wherever I could, pumping in my car, in fast food bathrooms, you name it! In my travel wrap up meeting with our coordinator and my supervisor, I found myself in tears. It was much more overwhelming than I ever imagined.
What motivated you to explore the opportunity of a part-time work schedule?
After an early birth, my husband and I decided we were likely stopping with one child. I started to realize that, though I still wanted to work, I also wanted to be home more. After many conversations between my husband and me, we decided the best option would be to see if I could work part-time. I was open to finding a new job if that was what was necessary.
Describe your work situation - the industry, culture, and whether or not part-time work had been historically available at your company.
I work in college admissions. We work in cycles: the fall is travel season, the winter is when we read applications, spring is when we welcome admitted students to our campus in hopes they will enroll and summer is when we welcome prospective students to campus to learn about our community. It is a culture of long days, working well beyond 9-5, Monday through Friday, but also of camaraderie and teamwork. Since my time at my job, 11 years, no one in my role has worked part-time. Historically, I knew some people had made more flexible arrangements, a few women worked part-time and another was able to arrange for a 10 month schedule.
How did you approach making the ask for part-time, and why do you believe you were successful?
After my husband and I decided that me working part-time would work for our family, I used my performance evaluation as an opportunity to start the conversation about changing my schedule. I knew my supervisor would be supportive, but I was pleasantly surprised when she brought it ‘up the chain’ there wasn’t a hard and fast “no.” It took several months to work out, but in the end I was offered the chance to work Monday through Wednesday and to be at home with my daughter Thursday and Friday.
I feel like I was so lucky in the way that my supervisor and office handled my request for part-time work. In my initial request I simply asked if it would be a possibility to discuss working a reduced schedule, 3 days a week. Immediately, there was support for the idea but we had to find out what the College would allow. There was some initial back and forth about potentially working a ten month schedule but ultimately, our department got approval and budget resources to hire a second person to work 2 days a week. We don't do a job share in the traditional sense in that we each have our own projects and responsibilities but we technically share the position and the hours. Having someone in the office on the 2 days I am not there means that my schedule does not put extra pressure on my other colleagues.
Once it was decided that I would work three days per week for the foreseeable future, a few of my responsibilities got re-assigned. This has been really helpful because if I kept my workload I would not be successfully completing assignments. Now, I am able to focus on a few things during my time at work and complete them with limited need to work outside of my arranged schedule.
What are some of the best and most difficult elements of your new part-time work situation?
The best part of working part-time is I get to be involved in my office and my profession while still taking my daughter to storytime at the library, letting her sleep in and have lazy mornings at home and giving her uninterrupted quality time together.
The hardest part is not working outside of my assigned times. I find myself checking email during nap and completing projects in the evenings even on Thursdays and Fridays.
What advice would you give to someone considering making a request for a part-time role?
My best advice would be to ask for what you need. The worst that can happen is you are told “no” and then it is up to you if you want to move on to new opportunities. I would also say to be clear on your boundaries, for example, if you will not be checking email on your off-days then make sure everyone knows that.